Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

All this talk about Object of Beauty, Steve Martin's latest book,  has got us thinking again about Shop Girl, his Novella published in 2000. The book was beautiful, rainy-day-sad and moving. The movie...? Not so much. Unfortunately, Steve Martin felt the need to write, produce and star in the flick.

The age disparity between the protagonist Mirabelle, played by a luminous Claire Danes, and her foil Ray Porter, played by Steve Martin as the (inadvertently) archetypal dirty old man, worked poorly on screen. As soon as we began discussing SG over tea at home, Acton mentioned that the creepy sex scene between the duo was branded indelibly in her memory. And, fittingly, her fave 'hysterical realist' agrees. Here's Zadie Smith writing for The Telegraph on Shop Girl:

"In the (very good) novel, Martin's writing is so sparse and elegant you can almost excuse the concept. But here on film Ray Porter's unmoving, waxy face is on top of hers, he is running his crepe fingers (one place where Botox will not work) over the perfection of Mirabelle's backside - it is intolerable."

Object of Beauty has been getting some pretty lukewarm reviews. Janet Maslin from the New York Times found Martin's heroine to be uninspiring. 

"Although Lacey is treated as this book’s main source of fascination, it’s less interesting to look at her point-blank than to look at her while wondering what Mr. Martin sees."

The New Republic has Andrew Butterfield of Andrew Butterfield Fine Arts discussing the inaccuracies in the book as it pertains to the New York Art Wold. He takes personal issue with the way Steve Martin describes one of the collector's suits. 

"Later he is seen wearing an Armani suit. I have met hundreds of collectors in New York and elsewhere, and not one ever went about with an open shirt and gold chains or wore a suit that said Armani. Not one. The men tend to wear custom-made clothing, and in a range of styles of business attire. Other than the quality of the fabric and the stitching, which you have to look to see, rarely does it proclaim its high sartorial quality."

I'm still planning on picking up this book based on the strength of Shop Girl and the fact that it doesn't seem like a big investment in terms of time a la Freedom. And despite negative or rather non-positive reviews, other readers are following suit. Object of Beauty is still number 13 on the New York Times Best Sellers List. What do you think? Will you be reading SG? Have you already? Let us know.

xx Ellis


  1. Great observations, Ellis. While the book was charming and comforting, the movie was slick and creepy.

    Blog topic? --> Movies so terrible they ruin the books on which they're based.

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  3. Or how about, movies so good they redeem the wretched book? Twilight, anyone? Kidding? Kind of.

  4. What do you think about expanded and elaborated kids books into movies? I loved Fantastic Mr. Fox. And never saw Where The Wild Things Are after hating the screenplay Eggers' published.